Last September 25, 2017, the House Committee on Health unanimously approved the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act (House Bill No. 180). The bill, authored by Rodolfo T. Albano II, proposes to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis.
The bill also pushes for the establishment of Medical Cannabis Compassion Centers licensed by the Philippines Department of Health. The centers will be given the authority to dispense cannabis to qualified patients through a pharmacist.
Medical marijuana is known to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, among others. Research in mice showed that treatment with medical cannabis, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.
The endorsement of the bill gave hope to advocates and opened a huge opportunity to help those afflicted with painful or life threatening diseases. But the question is: are we ready for it? Is the Philippines ready for medical cannabis?
The status quo
In most cultures and all corners of the world, recreational drugs have become a part of people’s socialization. Ancient cultures are rich with love potions, hallucinogens, and stimulants from leaves, seeds and flowers of plants. Even in the Philippines, our forests are rich with natural stimulants and hallucinogens of seeds, leaves, and flowers, known in the boondocks and by the mountain folk. But today, recreational needs invented synthetics and an extensive list of designer drugs.
President Rodrigo Duterte, despite his staunch anti-drug stance, has expressed openness to legalizing the medical use of marijuana. “It’s effective,” the president said during his 2016 campaign. “I will not deprive Filipinos of the benefits of medicinal marijuana, but I must have a clear definition of what it is and it must be approved by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration in the Philippines].”
Certainly, marijuana should not be denied its medicinal potential. Its proven characteristic of relieve pain and the many discomforts of disease should be focused on rather than its status on popular culture.
Legalize or more research?
We cannot deny that the health benefits of medical marijuana is needed in providing relief for patients who are experiencing intense pain and are terminally-ill. But should legalizing its medical use be the next step?
Rather than more studies of the same, we can focus on the old and predictable problems and novel challenges legalization will bring to the forefront—black market distribution, patient monitoring, and sustainable control measures.
While questions and issues on safety are crucial points for continued debate, cannabis is still safer than all the other recreational drugs, including alcohol, with less toxicity than some over the counter pain-killers.
Also read: Not the best time for marijuana bill
Next step of the parliament
The closest Senate measure to a medical marijuna bill is Senate Bill No. 1313, or the public health intervention for drug abuse bill, which was filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros. Majority leader Senator Tito Sotto, announced that the Senate is not inclined to pass a medical marijuana bill. Sotto, a former head of the Dangerous Drugs Board, said he would oppose any medical marijuana proposal in the Senate. He insisted that a medical marijuana bill might open the doors for the legal use of marijuana in the Philippines, which would violate a UN treaty signed by the country.
The passage of this bill will be a huge challenge for politicians to raise informed opinions on the medical use of marijuana. Debates should be accompanied by unbiased education and dissemination of its pros and cons otherwise it will be just another pointless hearing based on hearsay.
The Filipinos should not be deprived of the health benefits of marijuana. Therefore, more research is needed on its provisions and how the government can implement it without compromising the safety and health of the people.
De Guzman, C. (2017, September 26). House panel approves medical marijuana bill. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/09/26/house-panel-on-medical-marijuana.html
Stuart, G. (n.d.). Case of Medical Marijuna: A Point of View. Retrieved April 14, 2018, from http://www.stuartxchange.org/MedicalMarihuana
Avandeno, C. (2018, October 2). Sotto: No hope for medical marijuana in Senate. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/934737/sotto-no-hope-for-medical-marijuana-in-senate